North Florida Ecological Services Office
Southeast Region

Federal Register Notice (Rule)

Environmental Assessment

USFWS Brief for Local Congressional, County, and City Officials (Slide with notes) - March 15, 2012 - PDF - 1.25MB

USFWS Brief for Manatee Forum (Slides with notes) - April 12, 2012 - PDF - 1.23MB

USFWS Brief for Dive Shop Owners at CRNWR "End of Season" Meeting (Slide with Notes) - April 27, 2012 - PDF 1.25KB

Questions and Answers on Designation of Kings Bay Manatee Refuge

PDF Version of Map - 387KB

PDF 4-page Handout including map - 546KB


For Immediate Release
March 15, 2012
Media Contact: Chuck Underwood, 904.731.3332
chuck_underwood @ fws.gov

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Improves Manatee Protection in King's Bay;
Keeps Recreational Sport-zone Open 10 Weeks with Speed Limits

CITRUS COUNTY, FL -- The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today finalized a proposal to improve protections for manatees in Citrus County, including establishing a year-round manatee refuge in Kings Bay, its tributaries, and adjoining water bodies upstream of the confluence of Kings Bay and Crystal River.  In the winter, Kings Bay’s warm water springs host the largest natural concentration of manatees in Florida.

The final rule establishing the manatee protection area in Kings Bay will help provide greater protection to manatees – including protections from collisions with boats – while providing continuing opportunities for manatee viewing, recreation, and boating activities that are important to the local community near Kings Bay.

“For several decades, we have worked successfully with the State of Florida and the local community to protect manatees in Kings Bay, which draws visitors from around the world,” said Cindy Dohner, the Service’s Southeast Regional Director. “This rule addresses a wide range of public and partners comments and concerns, and greatly improves protections for manatees, an important step in securing the future of the species.”  

Boat operations at slow or idle speed, as marked, would continue year-round, with an exception under the final that allows high speed (not to exceed 25-mph) daylight operations during 10 weeks of the summer in that the portion of Kings Bay least used by manatees.  The Service revised this portion of the rule based in part on concerns raised by the general public and local officials regarding recreational user safety.

The final rule also allows the Service flexibility to adjust the boundaries of the seven existing winter manatee sanctuaries during peak manatee and public use periods in order to prevent disturbance and harassment of manatees; establish additional temporary no-entry areas at lesser springs based on weather conditions and manatee use; and regulates boating speeds throughout the bay.  It also defines what constitutes manatee harassment throughout Kings Bay.  This will help the viewing public avoid disturbance of the manatees in the warm waters critical to the species’ survival.   Specific details on these protective measures can be found at http://go.usa.gov/PPC.

In response to the boating safety concerns, Service officials reviewed boating safety and citation records for all of Crystal River and consulted with the U.S. Coast Guard as to whether portions of the proposal related to the summer watersports area would exacerbate existing human safety issues.

“The Service takes comments regarding human safety very seriously,” Dohner said. “Waterway safety experts confirmed that our rule as originally proposed would have caused safety problems.  As a result we crafted a common-sense approach that better accommodates safe recreational use while also substantially reducing the risk of collisions between boats and manatees.”

According to Service officials the rule modifications address these significant human safety concerns while still reducing the risk of take of manatees.

“This is accomplished by reducing the number of days high speed activity is allowed, lowering the speed within the designated high-speed area,” said Dave Hankla, the Service’s field supervisor in the North Florida Ecological Services Office, “and requiring slow speed in those areas of highest manatee use.”

The Endangered Species Act provides a critical safety net for America’s native fish, wildlife and plants. The Service works to actively engage conservation partners and the public in the search for improved and innovative ways to conserve and recover imperiled species. To learn more about the Endangered Species Program, visit http://www.fws.gov/endangered/.

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. For more information about the manatee, this rule and its associated Environmental Assessment, please visit the Service on the web at http://fws.gov/southeast/ or http://fws.gov/northflorida/.

Connect with our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/usfwssoutheast, follow our tweets at www.twitter.com/usfwssoutheast, watch our YouTube Channel at http://www.youtube.com/usfws and download photos from our Flickr page at http://www.flickr.com/photos/usfwssoutheast.


Federal Register Notice (Rule)

Environmental Assessment

Questions and Answers on Designation of Kings Bay Manatee Refuge

PDF Version of Map - 387KB

PDF 4-page Handout including map - 546KB


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Last updated: September 12, 2014